Play is a natural element of childhood. It’s how children learn about the world, explore new ideas and discover new things. Play time has a whole host of benefits and is essential for boosting the physical, social, emotional and cognitive well being of children. The great outdoors is the world’s natural playground, so let’s make the most of it! Here are some of reasons behind why play makes for healthy, happy children.

Healthy Bodies

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We all know that playing outside is an excellent way to keep our children active. More than that though, outdoor play improves children’s locomotor skills, such as walking, running and jumping, as well as their manipulative skills through throwing and catching. Learning to pass a football or hopping along stepping stones in the park will help children to practise their balance and coordination. All of these skills will support children’s physical development and make them feel more confident. Children need around 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical exercise per day to keep fit.

Social Butterflies

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Playing outside means running around with friends, communicating rules and instructions, and calling out to them during games. Enjoying outdoor play as part of a group creates a sense of belonging and encourages teamwork, as well as providing children with an environment in which they can express their own ideas and develop an understanding of other people’s needs and values. Pretend play, whether that’s as jungle explorers in the garden, or pirates at the seaside, is a very effective way for children to learn necessary social skills too.

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

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Play time fosters emotional understanding and as been proven to reduce aggression, boost happiness and build self-esteem in children. During play, children need to learn to understand and respond to the emotions of their peers so that they can achieve their aims. This could be simply choosing which game to play first, allocating roles for pretend play, or ensuring that everyone is enjoying the game. Many children will learn to manage their emotions through trial and error. For example, children may realise that expressing frustration towards their friends will be received negatively and even slow down the game.

Boost Brain Power

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Healthy bodies also result in healthy brains according to studies which show that physical activity can boost test scores and lead to better grades in Maths, English and reading. This is because physical activity enlarges the part of the brain that helps you to pay attention. Children that play therefore find it easier to concentrate, allowing them to solve problems and puzzles more efficiently than before. Just 20 minutes of outside play in a natural and green environment can help children to focus more during class time.

Outdoor play is the ideal way to boost healthiness and happiness in our children. It’s great to include a variety of different structured and unstructured play time opportunities for children, including after school clubs, play time in the park with friends, and time for them to explore the outdoors on their own steam. While they play, us parents can be safe in the knowledge that they are developing key skills that they will need more and more as they grow up.

Photos courtesy of Pentagon Sport.